Students walk past the Koelbel Building on Monday, August 23, 2021, at the University of Colorado Boulder campus. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

The University of Colorado is severing ties with publicly traded Russian companies, pulling money invested by the university’s foundation and treasury pool as an act of support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. 

The value of the investments are “negligible overall,” according to a media release from the university. 

“We are looking for ways to show our support for the people of Ukraine and believe that cutting our investments is the right thing to do,” CU President Todd Saliman said in a statement. Saliman was previously the university’s chief financial officer.

The university’s move to divest from Russian companies comes as Gov. Jared Polis urges the state’s higher education institutions to break away from Russian state-owned assets. 

On Tuesday, Polis sent a letter to colleges and universities asking them to “completely divest your endowment of any Russian-owned assets,” “terminate all contracts with the Russian-government,” and “terminate all grants in which the Russian-government or Russian institutions of higher education are the primary beneficiary.”

Polis wrote that he hopes those sanctions can be “short-lived” and will put more pressure on Russia to end the war it started with Ukraine. 

“We will stand on the side of freedom and proudly support a democratic and independent Ukraine,” Polis wrote. “War, violence, and chaos threaten the very foundations of the global economy and our national security. Colorado will not turn its head. We will take affirmative actions to support Ukranians and hold Russia accountable.”

Fund managers for the CU Foundation are working to sell investments. Holdings in publicly traded Russian companies represent less than 0.1% of the foundation’s $2.6 billion long-term investment pool, or less than $2.6 million, according to the media release from the university.

Additionally, the university is invested in mutual funds that have equity holdings in Russia. The amount invested totals about $3.5 million as of the most recent valuation, which equals less than 0.25% of the university’s assets. 

“The university has requested that the mutual funds exit these holdings as early as allowable,” the release stated.

Jack Kroll, chairman of CU’s Board of Regents, called the measures “small but important steps.”

The Colorado Department of Higher Education is not aware of any other state colleges or universities holding investments in Russian state-owned assets. Executive Director Angie Paccione reached out to presidents and CEOs of public institutions Thursday to ask if they had any financial connections to Russian entities.

“There’s nothing active that we know of at this time,” said CDHE spokesperson Megan McDermott, adding that CDHE also asked institutions if they are conducting any research projects with Russia and were informed that there are none.

The state’s pension system, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, has also divested $7.2 million from a Russian bank that was sanctioned by the U.S. government last week. Polis is pushing the PERA Trust Fund to completely divest from all Russian state-owned institutions, according to a media release from the governor’s office. PERA’s portfolio is valued at about $61 billion.

That divestment falls as former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens recently resigned from the supervisory board of one of Russia’s largest banks, the Credit Bank of Moscow.

“Ukraine is a free and independent nation which was brutally attacked in an unprovoked way by Russia,” Owens told The Colorado Sun last week. “I believe the U.S. and our allies should stand for Ukraine, as they stand for us all.”